Immigration Law

Federal law doesn't preempt New Jersey's ban on immigration cooperation, 3rd Circuit rules

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A federal appeals court has upheld a New Jersey directive that limited state and local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Philadelphia ruled Monday that the directive by then-New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal was not preempted by federal laws, report Reuters and Law360. Grewal is now director of enforcement for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The appeals court agreed that a federal judge didn’t err by dismissing the federal claims. Separate state law claims are pending in New Jersey state court.

Grewal’s directive had limited law enforcement cooperation with immigration authorities in several ways. Generally, officials couldn’t provide nonpublic identifying information, such as a Social Security number about any individuals, couldn’t provide access to local databases and other property not available to the general public, couldn’t provide access to a detained person for an interview absent consent, and couldn’t provide notice of a detainee’s upcoming release from custody.

Two New Jersey counties, a sheriff and the oversight board of a county jail had sought to overturn the directive. They claimed that it violated federal laws that say a state entity or official can’t be prevented from sharing the immigration status of any individual with federal authorities.

The 3rd Circuit said federal laws that regulate government entities, rather than private actors, cannot serve as a basis for preemption.

Because the federal immigration laws at issue don’t regulate private actors, there is no preemption, the appeals court said.

Judge Thomas Hardiman, said to be on former President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court short list, wrote the opinion.

Acting New Jersey Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck commented on the decision in an Aug. 9 statement.

“For three years, the Immigrant Trust Directive has helped us to foster trust between New Jersey’s police officers and the state’s historically marginalized communities by drawing a clear, bright line between the work of state law enforcement officers and federal civil immigration officers,” Bruck said. “Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit agreed that our approach is lawful. I hope this brings an end to this yearslong litigation.”

The case is Ocean County Board of Commissioners v. Attorney General of the State of New Jersey.

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